News / Asia

Female Korean Political Heir Tapped As Presidential Candidate

Former Saenuri Party leader Park Guen-hye waves to supporters during a national convention of the ruling Saenuri Party for a presidential primary in Goyang, South Korea, August 20, 2012.
Former Saenuri Party leader Park Guen-hye waves to supporters during a national convention of the ruling Saenuri Party for a presidential primary in Goyang, South Korea, August 20, 2012.
SEOUL — South Korea's governing New Frontier (Saenuri) Party has selected Park Gyeun-hye, the daughter of a former dictator, as its candidate for president. Park begins the general election campaign as the conservative front-runner but a liberal political novice may prove to be her most formidable opponent in the December national election.

The announcement Monday of the winner of the presidential primary at the New Frontier Party's convention came as little surprise.

The party's election committee chairman, Kim Soo-han, declares Park Gyeun-hye the landslide winner, calling her victory a historical moment.

For the first time a major party in South Korea has selected a woman - as well as a child of a former president - as its candidate.

In results combining ballots of party members and citizens cast Sunday)and opinion polls, Park captured 84 percent of the primary vote.

In her 15-minute acceptance speech, Park notes the country faces numerous challenges, including being affected by the global economic crisis, threats from North Korea and a territorial dispute - although she did not single out Japan.

Park says this is a time South Korea needs a prepared and stable leader to confront these critical challenges. She says she will never accept any actions that threaten the nation's security or sovereignty.

The main opposition Democratic United Party is to decide on its candidate next month from among five finalists.

The DUP's primary frontrunner is Moon Jae-in who served as chief of staff during the administration of liberal president Roh Moo-hyun in the previous decade.

But many left of center say their best chance to defeat Park lies with a popular outsider and political novice. He is a high-profile university professor who became very wealthy as a software entrepreneur.
 
Ahn Cheol-soo has not joined any political party and despite increasing hints he will run for president, Ahn has yet to make a formal declaration with just four months remaining until election day.

Many observers say if Ahn runs as an independent that would split the left-wing vote further easing Park's path to victory. But Jangan University professor Park Chang-hwan does not expect that will happen.

The political analyst predicts Ahn and the DUP will reach a consensus on a unified opposition candidate.

Park, who is 60, in 2007 lost the Grand National Party nomination to current President Lee Myung-bak. Under current law the president is limited to a single five-year term.

Park has earned the nickname “Queen of Elections” for leading election comebacks for the conservatives. Her latest accomplishment in that realm was a widely unexpected victory for the party in elections for the national assembly in April.

Despite her high profile as a politician, the electorate knows little about her private life. She has never married. Park has previously stated that with no parents, husband or children her focus is solely on serving the nation.

Political analyst Park Chang-hwan notes the governing party candidate's popularity has been stable at around 40 percent since the last presidential election.

Park says that rating is a big political asset but her base has not been expanding and she has a weakness attracting the younger generation, moderates and those living in the capital.

Candidate Park, he says, must learn to communicate better with those outside her core support group.

Her father, Park Chung-hee, became president in the early 1960's when she was a child. The daughter was thrust into the national spotlight in her early 20's when a North Korean-backed assassin killed her mother in 1974. Park was then regarded as first lady for five years.

She suffered further personal tragedy when, in 1979, the intelligence agency chief killed her father inside the presidential Blue House compound.

President Park's 18 years of authoritarian rule, backed by tough martial laws imposed after he seized power in a 1961 military coup, remains a shadow cast over his daughter's quest to win his former post.

Many in the electorate are still bitter about Park's anti-democratic legacy while others are more forgiving -- considering him a key driver of helping to turn around the economy of an impoverished country that was devastated by war.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid